LREI Centennial Highlights

Explore the defining moments over the last century that made LREI what it is today.

1921
Little Red School House Founded by Elisabeth Irwin

Little Red School House Founded by Elisabeth Irwin

Elisabeth Irwin founded the Little Red School House in 1921 in the attic room of the P.S. 61 Annex at 535 East 16th Street as an alternative public elementary school. Parents and students loved the new dynamic learning community. It..Read More

1925
First June Camp

First June Camp

From 1925 through the early 1960s, all LREI students spent the month of June in the country. This was called June Camp. LREI continues this tradition with a four-day trip for lower school students we now call the Farm Trip.

1929
LRSH at P.S. 41

LRSH at P.S. 41

The Little red School House at PS 41 on Greenwich Avenue in the heart of the Village opened in February of 1929 with 4 classes, two kindergartens and two first grades, numbering 90 children. Elisabeth Irwin felt the circumstances were..Read More

1932
Roosevelt and Dewey Help LRSH

Roosevelt and Dewey Help LRSH

Clinging tenaciously to their hope of saving “the Little Red School House,” at P.S. 41, despite the Board of Superintendents’ refusal to permit continuance of the experiment, parents of children at the school began today to circulate a petition to..Read More

1932
Board of Education Cuts Funding to LRSH

Board of Education Cuts Funding to LRSH

The Great Depression prompts the New York City Board of Education to announce that it will no longer fund Elisabeth Irwin’s progressive experiment at P.S.41. In the spring of 1932, the Great Depression was hitting every institution in American life..Read More

1932
Parents Save LRSH

Parents Save LRSH

Parents meet at an ice cream parlor on 6th Avenue and resolve to raise money to continue Little Red School House as an independent school.

1932
Classes begin at 196 Bleecker Street

Classes begin at 196 Bleecker Street

We opened that first fall with five groups of children, from five to nine years old—161 children in all. The next year we added a ten-year-old group. Each year we added another group, taking all children who came. Tuition was..Read More

1932
First Parent Association Meeting

First Parent Association Meeting

The first parent association meeting is held in LRSH’s new building at 196 Bleecker Street.

1934
International Exhibit of Children’s Paintings Benefit

International Exhibit of Children’s Paintings Benefit

In 1934, LRSH  organized the first International Exhibition Of Children’s Painting at Rockefeller Center, representing work from forty countries. It honored the creativity of children on a scale that had never been imagined – much less attempted – before. Eleanor..Read More

1937
LRSH Purchases Bleecker Street Building

LRSH Purchases Bleecker Street Building

The Little Red School House purchases 196-198 Bleecker Street from The First Presbyterian Church, who had let the school use the building free of charge until then.

1938

New York State Board of Regents Grants Absolute Charter to LRSH

The Charter permitted LRSH, among many other legal privileges, the right to certify each child’s attendance, the successful fulfillment of the state’s educational requirements and, as a not-for-profit corporation, the right to solicit contributions to support the school’s operations.

1939
Democracy Pamphlet

Democracy Pamphlet

As is promised in LREI’s mission statement, “Students graduate from our diverse community as active participants in our democratic society,…”  Elisabeth Irwin and three of her early colleagues, in the language of the times, shares their thoughts on this important..Read More

1941
High School Opens

High School Opens

LRSH purchases the 40 Charlton Street building, a former church and settlement house purchased from the Episcopal Mission Society, and opens the high school, which is posthumously named for Elisabeth Irwin in 1942.

1942
Elisabeth Irwin Letter to Students

Elisabeth Irwin Letter to Students

Elisabeth Irwin sent this very moving letter to students, written from her hospital bed weeks before her death. In the letter, she encourages the students to “Please sing the songs that we love so well so that I can hear..Read More

1942
Elisabeth Irwin Dies

Elisabeth Irwin Dies

Elisabeth Irwin dies on October 16, 1942 at New York Hospital.

1942
THE LITTLE RED SCHOOL HOUSE Published

THE LITTLE RED SCHOOL HOUSE Published

Agnes Delima’s The Little Red School House is published. Contributors include Elisabeth Irwin, John Dewey, and LRSH teachers.

1943
Dr. Randolph Smith Becomes Director

Dr. Randolph Smith Becomes Director

Near the entrance to 198 Bleecker Street is a small brass plaque that honors the man who led our school for 25 years between 1943 and 1968. Dr. Randolph B. Smith, who succeeded Elisabeth Irwin, was considered by contemporaries as..Read More

1943

Leonard Bernstein, Virgil Thomson, Pearl Bailey Perform at Benefit

Leonard Bernstein, Virgil Thomson, Pearl Bailey, and others  perform at a benefit concert at Town Hall in 1943 to raise funds for the machine shop and science laboratory for wartime courses.

1945
EI High School Song

EI High School Song

Hear Tom Hurwitz, ’65, sing the Elisabeth Irwin High School song, written by David Roland, ’48 and Alan Garb, ’47. Listen to Hurwitz’s StoryLab interview where he talks about why the song is no longer sung, and about the only..Read More

1945
Elisabeth Irwin Graduates Its First Class

Elisabeth Irwin Graduates Its First Class

Read about EISH’s early years and its first graduating class in INFO, the high school newspaper.

1945
LRSH Student Gives Speech Before State Legislature, Receives Letter from Eleanor Roosevelt

LRSH Student Gives Speech Before State Legislature, Receives Letter from Eleanor Roosevelt

Paul Coburn, a ten-year-old at LRSH, made a speech before the State Legislature, in favor of the Ives-Quinn Anti-Discrimination Bill, which would make New York the first state to enact legislation curtailing the practice of discriminating against job applicants and employees based on race, religion, or creed...Read More

1946
Students Visit Phelps-Dodge Strike

Students Visit Phelps-Dodge Strike

Ninth graders visit the Phelps-Dodge Strike at the Phelps-Dodge Copper Products Corporation plant in Elizabeth, NJ. The eight-month-old strike was one of the longest major industrial disputes on record in the nation, resulting in a 18.5% hourly wage increase and..Read More

1947
Avon Long Performs at EI

Avon Long Performs at EI

Broadway star Avon Long performs at EI as part of Black History Week celebration.  

1950
EI Marches with NAACP

EI Marches with NAACP

Elisabeth Irwin students marched with a delegation from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Washington D.C. on January 16, 1950 to advocate for Congressional action on the passage of the Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC). EI..Read More

1951
LRSH Saved from Demolition

LRSH Saved from Demolition

LRSH is saved from demolition under Robert Moses‘ never-realized slum clearance plan despite his finding that it was “not advisable” for the school to remain standing (see letter). The threat of demolition that has hung over the Little Red School..Read More

1952
Jack Gilford and Harry Belafonte Perform at LRSH Fundraiser

Jack Gilford and Harry Belafonte Perform at LRSH Fundraiser

Third Annual Midnight Show of Stars to benefit the scholarship fund on Saturday, April 5, 1952 at the high school features Jack Gilford, Harry Belafonte and others. These annual fundraisers began at midnight and went well into the wee hours.

1952
Dr. Randolph B. Smith Defends the Bill of Rights

Dr. Randolph B. Smith Defends the Bill of Rights

Randolph Smith was called to testify on “Subversive Influence in the Educational Process” at hearings before the Committee on the Judiciary of the United States Senate in September, 1952.

1955
W.E.B. Dubois Visits

W.E.B. Dubois Visits

Dr. W.E.B. Dubois, well-known scholar, philosopher and writer, spoke to the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades on February 14. His topic was freedom of opinion in the United States. In a short analysis of the fight for freedom of opinion..Read More

1957
EI Students Attend Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom

EI Students Attend Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom

The date was May 17, 1957. Three years ago on that date the Supreme Court of the land added a new verse to freedom’s song. “Desegregate and state to integrate” chorused the nine men in black. And now three years..Read More

1957
Arthur Miller (P’62, ’65) Attends EI Performance of THE CRUCIBLE

Arthur Miller (P’62, ’65) Attends EI Performance of THE CRUCIBLE

EI parent Arthur Miller, author of The Crucible, attends an EI production of his play said the following about the performance:    

1957
10s Play About Integration

10s Play About Integration

A play by the 10s about integration was performed at an assembly in 1957, and then later at the high school. Teacher Mimi Levy transcribed phrases from class discussions of integration and turned their words into the script, which was..Read More

1958

Jackie Robinson Visits EI on Behalf of NAACP

In 1958, Jackie Robinson, ambassador of the NAACP, came to LREI with Herbert Wright, Youth Leader of the NAACP, to accept a check from EI students, funds raised to support their efforts in the fight for racial justice and to..Read More

1958
Dwight Eisenhower congratulates LRSH on 25th Anniversary

Dwight Eisenhower congratulates LRSH on 25th Anniversary

Read The New York Times article from March 1, 1958 here.

1958
EI Students Attend Youth March for Integrated Schools

EI Students Attend Youth March for Integrated Schools

On Saturday, October 25, 1958, EI students traveled to Washington D.C. to attend the Youth March for Integrated Schools led by A. Philip Randolph, Jackie Robinson, Coretta Scott King, Harry Belafonte, Bayard Rustin.

1958
Prime Minister Nehru Writes to Students at LRSH

Prime Minister Nehru Writes to Students at LRSH

In 1958, LRSH students sent Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru of India letters and drawings wishing him a happy birthday. In response, he wrote: I am glad to know that you have been learning about India in your class. India is..Read More

1959
Lorraine Hansberry Visits Book Week

Lorraine Hansberry Visits Book Week

On November 5, 1959, Lorraine Hansberry visited students to talk about her writing, including the play A Raisin in the Sun, as part of Book Week.

1960
EI Students Picket Woolworth’s

EI Students Picket Woolworth’s

Students from EI picket Woolworths at 39th Street and Fifth Avenue as part of a Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) drive.

1961

Parents Association Initiates Intercultural Enrollment Drive

The Intercultural and Enrollment committees of the PA plan an enrollment drive to increase LREI registration of “minority students.” Forty parents and teachers volunteered to work for increased intercultural registration in both schools. Beginning with countless telephone calls, their efforts..Read More

1963

March on Washington

EI students travel to Washington D.C. to attend the March on Washington D.C. on Wednesday, August 28, 1963, where Dr. Martin Luther king Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in which he called for an end to racism.”..Read More

1964
Alvin Ailey and Others Perform to Benefit Scholarship Program

Alvin Ailey and Others Perform to Benefit Scholarship Program

The LRSH annual “midnight show” features Jack Gilford, Alvin Ailey and others. This one begins not at midnight like previous shows, but at 8:30 pm.

1964
Students Visit Pennsylvania Coal Mines

Students Visit Pennsylvania Coal Mines

As part of our social studies course, the 11th grade took a 6 day trip to Pennsylvania. The three main objectives of the trip were to study coal mining conditions in the mining towns themselves and to visit farms of..Read More

1964

EI Students Participate in World’s Fair Demonstrations

Thirty EI students joined the demonstration on opening day of the 1964 World’s Fair. The students picketed the Louisiana Pavilion led by James Farmer and Bayard Rustin. Four students were arrested including Lisa Fein (Gilford), Liz Leicester, and Tom Hurwitz,..Read More

1968
Randolph Smith Retires

Randolph Smith Retires

Dr. Randolph Smith retires after 26 years as Director. Coit Johnson becomes the new Director of the Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School.

1972
Middle School Opens, Is Dedicated to Randolph Smith

Middle School Opens, Is Dedicated to Randolph Smith

The Dr. Randolph B. Smith Middle School is established in the buildings at 200/202 Bleecker Street. Until then, grades 5-8 were part of the high school in the 40 Charlton Street building.

1975

Coit Johnson Resigns

Coit Johnson  resigns after seven years as director. Continuity of LREI’s strong leadership, shared vision, principles of good progressive practice and financial stability, from Elisabeth Irwin to Randolph Smith to Coit Johnson, provided a sturdy foundation for the steady growth..Read More

1980

EIHS Saved

LREI students rally to stop their beloved school from closing, mostly due to financial hardship. The school was ultimately saved by its community and remained open.

1983

LREI Celebrates 50 Years

  LREI celebrates 50 years of being an independent school. Founded in 1921, LREI was a public school until the NYC Board of Education discontinued its funding. The LREI community raised funds to continue the school as an independent school..Read More

1987
Randolph B. Smith Dies

Randolph B. Smith Dies

Randoplh B. Smith, Director from 1943-1968 dies in Rutland, VT. Read his New York Times obituary here.

1988

LREI Students Perform at Carnegie Hall with Peter, Paul and Mary (’55)

LREI students sing “Light One Candle” with Peter, Paul, and Mary at their holiday concert at Carnegie Hall in December 1988. Susan Glass led the chorus, then and now. Pay close attention at 1:08 to see Middle School Principal Ana..Read More

1988
LREI Intramural Basketball

LREI Intramural Basketball

LREI launches its all-inclusive intramural basketball program for fifth and sixth graders. Through participation on athletic teams students develop their physical skills and the ability to work together toward a common purpose; they also learn to represent the school within..Read More

1989
“Hand in Hand” Benefit Concert

“Hand in Hand” Benefit Concert

Hand in Hand: A benefit concert at NYU EIsner Lubin Hall for Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School featuring Peter, Paul, and Mary (’55), John Hammond, Eric Weissberg, The Robert DeCormier Singers, and other special guests.

1989
An evening with LREI Parents Willem Dafoe (P’00), Harvey Keitel (P’97), and Richard Brown (P’94)

An evening with LREI Parents Willem Dafoe (P’00), Harvey Keitel (P’97), and Richard Brown (P’94)

On a snowy Friday, January 6th (1989), an enthusiastic audience of students, parents, and friends of the school enjoyed and evening with LREI parents Willem Dafoe and Harvey Keitel in a discussion moderated by noted film teacher and theorist Richard..Read More

1991
EIHS Saved

EIHS Saved

A second attempt to close the high school is rejected by the students, faculty, parents, and alumni. The Fund for the High School is established to raise funds earmarked specifically for the upper division.

1994
New Rooftop Playground

New Rooftop Playground

Parents and faculty work together to construct new rooftop playground

1996
Founder’s Day

Founder’s Day

The first annual Founder’s Day, established by Director Andrew Maclaren, pays tribute to Elisabeth Irwin.

1997

LREI Lesbian Gay Straight Alliance (LGSA)

Lower School Principal Elaine Winter and parent Alice Krauss, along with other parents, found the LREI Lesbian Gay Straight Alliance (LGSA).

1997

Visibility

Beginning in 1997, LREI hosted an annual photography exhibition entitled “Visibility: Our LGBTQ+ Community Portraits of Love.” The school invited community members to submit a photo of themself and/or their children, with someone in their life that identified as LGBTQIA+...Read More

1997
LREI Celebrates 75th Anniversary

LREI Celebrates 75th Anniversary

Click here to see the LREI 75th Anniversary booklet that includes photographs and student recollections of the school.

1998

First Founder’s Day Play

Every year, the LREI founder’s day play recounts how the parents of LREI met at an ice cream parlor and resolved to continue LREI as an independent school after the NYC Board of Education discontinued its funding as a public..Read More

2001
The Bravest Girl: Ruby Bridges

The Bravest Girl: Ruby Bridges

In 2001, Shoshana and Suzanne’s first grade class read a book about Ruby Bridges, a first grader and the first African-American child to desegregate the all-white William Frantz Elementary School in Louisiana during the New Orleans school desegregation crisis on..Read More

2001

LREI Honors FDNY Engine 24, Ladder 5

In November 2001, FDNY and NYPD officers joined LREI students and faculty in an assembly to honor the 11 FDNY Engine 24, Ladder 5, Battalion 2 firefighters who died on September 11, 2001 at the World Trade Center. Their firehouse..Read More

2003

LREI Marches in Pride Parade

LREI marches in the New York City Pride Parade. For this annual event, LREI shares a float with the Calhoun School complete with a DJ “booth” and rainbows galore. (Photos in slideshow are from 2014)

2003
LREI Hires Director of Diversity and Community

LREI Hires Director of Diversity and Community

LREI hires Sharon Dupree as its first Director fo Diversity and Community. Sandra “Chap” Chapman (also pictured here on the right) becomes Director of Equity and Community in 2007.

2004
Phil Kassen Becomes Director

Phil Kassen Becomes Director

When Phil Kassen was asked by a parent during the search process for LREI’s new director, “Why have you stayed at LREI for so long?” his response was: There are many reasons, large and small, including these: Mission-Driven—LREI is true..Read More

2007
Students March to Fight Global Warming

Students March to Fight Global Warming

On Saturday, April 14, 2007 over 90 members of the LREI community covered themselves in blue and joined hands with thousands of others to form the human coastline around lower Manhattan called the Sea of People. Consisting of a U-shaped..Read More

2007
The Power and Price of Privilege

The Power and Price of Privilege

Tim Wise, Director of the association for White Anti-racist education (AWARE) came to LREI to facilitate dialogue on race and privilege in America with students, faculty, and parents. He discussed the historical foundations of white privilege and how it is..Read More

2011

LREI’s 90th Anniversary + Ideas Speaker Series Launch

LREI celebrated its 90th anniversary by launching the Ideas Speaker Series. The inaugural series included talks by author Siddhartha Mukherjee (P’29, ’23), activist Christy Turlington (P’22,’24), PBS education correspondent John Merrow, and author Steven Johnson.

2014
Student Walkout 2014

Student Walkout 2014

In December 2104, thousands of students from schools across the U.S. staged a massive walkout in solidarity with Ferguson and other communities affected by police violence. LREI high school and middle school students joined the many demonstrations that occurred in..Read More

2014
LREI Students at Drink Up with Michelle Obama

LREI Students at Drink Up with Michelle Obama

LREI students participated in Drink Up, a collaboration to encourage everyone to drink more water between the Partnership for a Healthier America – which works with the private sector and PHA Honorary Chairwoman Michelle Obama to make the healthy choice..Read More

2014
New High School Wing Opens

New High School Wing Opens

The Charlton Street Arts Pavilion, a five-story visual and performing arts space at the High School with classroom and studio spaces designed to inspire, opens.

2016
New York Magazine Features LREI Protesters

New York Magazine Features LREI Protesters

LREI students featured in New York Magazine’s annual “Reasons to Love New York ” 12th edition, 2016: No. 2 | Because Even Our Protesters Are Precocious. Read the full article here.

2016

Gloria Steinem Visits Feminism Class

Gloria Steinem, feminist journalist and social political activist, visited Ileana Jiménez’ Feminism class.

2016

The Laramie Project + Moisés Kaufman Lecture

LREI’s production of The Laramie Project premiered during election week of November 2016 – a fractious and memorable moment in political history, when hate speech was again on the rise. The students who participated in the play hosted an audience talkback..Read More

2016
LREI Students Protest Constitution Pipeline

LREI Students Protest Constitution Pipeline

LREI students travel to Albany to protest the Constitution Pipeline.

2017
LREI at Women’s March

LREI at Women’s March

LREI students and teachers participated in the Women’s March, a worldwide protest on January 21, 2017, the day after the inauguration of President Donald Trump. It was prompted by the fact that several of Trump’s statements were considered by many..Read More

2017
Facing Whiteness

Facing Whiteness

Filmmaker and educator Whitney Dow spoke at LREI as part of the 2017 Idea Speak Series. His project “Facing Whiteness” examines how Americans who identify as “white,” or “partially white,” process their ethnicity, and pair it with secondary quantitative data..Read More

2018

National School Walkout Against Gun Violence

Thousands Protest Against Gun Violence Across the U.S., including LREI students from all three divisions. The younger students stood in with signs outside of the Sixth Avenue building while high school students joined crowds of protesters in Washington Square Park...Read More

2018
School Was Our Life Book Launch

School Was Our Life Book Launch

LREI hosted the book launch of School Was Our Life: Remembering Progressive Education by philosopher Jane Roland Martin ‘47, a collection of stories and recollections from students who attended Little Red during the 1930s and 1940s, the peak of progressive..Read More

2018
All-School Read of I AM JAZZ

All-School Read of I AM JAZZ

In 2018, LREI participated in the first annual all-school read of the book I Am Jazz by Jazz Jennings. This book, as well as several other books on the topics of gender and identity, have played an important role in..Read More

2020
The Democracy  Project

The Democracy Project

LREI launches a collective, school-wide effort called The Democracy Project to uphold this country’s core democratic values. The Democracy Project is a student-led initiative to help the LREI student community become more knowledgeable on and involved in the democratic process,..Read More

2020

LREI Moves Online

In March 2020, LREI moved online to LREI@home. Teachers, faced with the Herculean task of creating from scratch virtual classrooms that brought LREI’s hands-on, participatory learning onto zoom in the space of two weeks, accomplished the impossible by finding creative..Read More

2020

Back to School 2020-2021

LREI opened for in-person classes in October 2020 after several months of LREI@home. Masked, socially distanced, and with windows open through the winter, students and teachers rallied to find creative ways to make school not only a safe space for..Read More

2021
Angela Davis ’61 Speaks at Senior Banquet

Angela Davis ’61 Speaks at Senior Banquet

EI alumna Angela Davis (’61) spoke to the 2021 graduating class at their senior banquet via zoom.

 

 

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